Home » Articles posted by Jeff Brabec

Author Archives: Jeff Brabec

Graduation, it’s only a year away…

Spring is often seen as a season of new beginnings.  The dead limbs of the trees burst back to life and the dandelions become prolific.  It’s a seson of sunshine and happiness after the dark and cold and dreary days of Winter.  For some, however, it can be a season of melancholy.  I am of course talking about the Seniors who will be graduating in thirteen days.  Yes, graduation is supposed to be a happy affair, a celebration of achievement over the past four years and all the achievement that the future holds for the graduating class.  It is also a bittersweet affair because while the graduating class is going off to change the world, their graduation marks the end of a very remarkable era.

I am a Junior here at Juniata and with each passing day I become more and more preoccupied with my own impending graduation.  There are so many things that I need to do in the next year to be even remotely ready to graduate.  I need to take the GRE so I can apply to Graduate schools, I need to apply to Graduate schools, write a thesis on the research that I have done here at Juniata, and try to have as much fun in the next year as I possibly can.

 Figure 1: Just two of the many amazing people that I have met while here at Juniata, doing what we do best, making door decorations for our residents.


Figure 1: Just two of the many amazing people that I have met while here at Juniata, doing what we do best, making door decorations for our residents.

I am not a fan of clichés, especially in writing, but I do believe that college is one of the best times of your life.  I didn’t come to terms with this realization until the beginning of last semester.  I was not having any fun.  Now that’s not to say I stayed in my room and did homework all the time; I did manage to get out periodically, but I never did anything that was outside my comfort zone, nothing that challenged me to grow as a person.  So, I decided to change that.  The one thing that I do not want to do is walk across the front steps of Halbritter a year from now and wish I had done more during my undergraduate years.

Do You Even Lax Bro?

I was first exposed to lacrosse as a freshman in high school when I was applying to Fountain Valley School of Colorado.  I knew nothing about the sport, but from the moment I saw the few pictures of what looked to be combination football-hockey players striding through the trees of Fountain Valley’s Victory Road, I knew I wanted to play.  These hopes were soon dashed by an aside comment from one of my Track and Field teammates who, when I told him that I wanted to play lacrosse because it looked fun, said, “Dude you’re so tiny those guys would kill you.”  And that was the end of that.

At the beginning of this spring semester, Juniata Women’s Lacrosse made their NCAA D3 debut.  I can’t say that I was all that excited about watching the sport because I didn’t understand the rules (and even after watching two games I still don’t understand what half the fouls were called for) and my initial infatuation with the sport had faded.  But I was excited to watch my friends play a sport they loved and had practiced hard to do well in.

Figure 1: Our Juniata Women's Lacrosse team, warpainted up for their first game!  Their record is now 3 wins to 0 losses.  Is it too early to say "undefeated?"

Figure 1: Our Juniata Women’s Lacrosse team, warpainted up for their first game! Their record is now 3 wins to 0 losses. Is it too early to say “undefeated?”

The day of the first lacrosse game was cloudy but uncharacteristically warm for mid-March in central Pennsylvania.  The stands were not as full as they could be for the inaugural game of our lacrosse program, but those of us who were there were all there to support our friends and family and we were excited!

To be honest I’m not sure how many of us thought we were going to win that first game.  Of course, we were all hoping and praying that our team would win but it was their first game and we assumed the girls they would be playing would be hardened Lax athletes.  But from the moment Kat scored the first goal, I knew it was going to be a good game.  The moment the crowd saw the ball hit the back of the net, it exploded to its feet cheering and screaming in the elation of an early success.  Then Britt scored, then Natalie then Kat again and Britt again and before I knew it the game was over and we had managed to win by a decent margin and we had made it into the double digits.

Before this year I never attended Juniata sporting events.  I just never found the time to.  But the energy of that first lacrosse game, the support that the crowd gave to the team was infectious and next year, when I will be a Senior you will hopefully find me at every single home game, supporting my team.

SPRINGFEST: A Tale of Many Sunburns (and some other fun stuff too)

Hands down, today was the best day I have ever had at Juniata.  To start, the weather was beautiful, especially compared to the nasty conglomeration of precipitation the meteorologists like to call “winter mix.”  The sky was clear and the wind that had plagued us all week had diminished to a light, almost refreshing breeze.  All of this provided a lovely backdrop to the amazing event of Springfest.  Every spring, our Juniata Activity Board, more commonly referred to as JAB, puts on a day-long event to celebrate the coming of spring and the sun and the warm weather that comes along with it.

Figure 1: Not the most majestic of pictures, but hey, Ferris Wheel.

Figure 1: Not the most majestic of pictures, but hey, Ferris Wheel.

This year Springfest was Coachella  themed, as the JAB member who  planned the event told me.  They  brought in four performers from  across the northeast, including Lee  Dewyze the winner of season nine of  American Idol, and an amazing  acapella group out of Canada call  Eh440 (check them out they were  AMAZING).  The event ran from noon  to seven in the evening and every hour  of the event was packed with bouncy  castles, food trucks, three encore  performances from the Downbeat  Percussion group, and a Ferris Wheel.

For me, it wasn’t the terrifying awesomeness of a Ferris Wheel (what?  I’m afraid of heights) or the red chili chicken burrito served from a food truck that mad the day so memorable.  I think I can take the liberty to say that for most, Springfest is the first day in a long time that they can leave their rooms and homework, and bask in the warmth of a sun that is too often hidden during the winter months.  It’s a time to let loose a little before the final projects and tests start flooding in, robbing us of any time that we might otherwise have spent on the quad, lazily hammocking.

Even though I still have several homework assignments ahead of me tonight that I should have worked on today, I don’t regret spending my entire day outside.  Sure, I’ll be a little more tired this week, but it’s also only three days long for me (thank god for Easter weekend and not having classes on Thursdays).  My skin will also be red as a beet and burning up due to sunburn, but being uncomfortable for a few days will be well worth the day of music and food and fun that I just had.

Ain’t No Life Like the Reslife

Your Resident Assistant is as important to your freshmen year as the friends you make during those first few weeks on campus.  The RA is not just big brother listening at the door for shenanigans, they are also a friend and mentor.  I have been an RA for the past two years and I can honestly say that if I had to go back and do it all again, I would still choose to be an RA.  I have gained an overabundance of leadership experience and I have also gotten to meet and build relationships with some pretty amazing people.

Figure 1: Three of our amazing RA's for next year, and one very odd RD... you decide who is who.

Figure 1: Three of our amazing RA’s for next year, and one very odd RD… you decide who is who.

Among those great people are the Resident Director Brett Greene, Residential Life Coordinators Kevin Turner and Jason Francey, our Director Tasia White and Penny Hooper-Conway.  First, Penny is a saint.  She is our Associate Director of Reslife and she is the glue that holds the office together.  She has been there the longest and her experience shows (and is much appreciated) during times of high stress, like Room Draw.  Tasia, the Director of Reslife is new to her position but not new to Juniata.  I spoke with her last semester when she was applying for the job and her passion for Reslife and her love for Juniata are the main reasons that I recommended her for the position (though as a lowly RA my input probably had little to do with her hiring).

As freshmen, the RLC you’ll encounter most Is Kevin Turner.  As the Senior RA of Sherwood Hall, it has been my pleasure to work alongside Kevin this past year to develop the freshmen community in that building and across all our first-year buildings.  Next year he’ll be working with Senior RAs Becca and Ellie, in Sunderland and Sherwood respectively, to continue to grow the communities in those buildings and improve upon the programming that we offer.

The most exciting thing about next year is the staff.  We have biochemists and zoologists, an expert bowler (with his own perfectly white bowling shoes) and a lacrosse player, a member of the Juniata Concert Choir and a kid who likes to ride bikes a little too much (though I can’t talk because I run a lot so…).  We have a diverse staff and we all have very diverse interests and personalities.  What we do have in common is a love for Juniata and the drive to make others feel as welcome here as our RA’s made us feel when we were freshmen.

Advice on Advisors

When I decided to come to Juniata, I did so without visiting.  I came because of the stories an alumnus told me and from the conversations I had with students who were already here and my fellow incoming freshmen.  I arrived having no idea what the campus looked like or what the classes would be like and to be honest I was scared.  For the first week or so I didn’t have an appetite because I was so nervous.

I was still nervous as I sat outside my new adviser’s office waiting to talk about my schedule and what my life would be like over the next four years.   As I sat outside the office of Dr. Dan Dries I listened to his voice as he was talking to another of his new advisees.  It’s hard to explain, and maybe harder to imagine, but his voice had a carefree lilt to it.  His words were often interspersed with laughter and slowly my nervousness turned into curiosity.  If he was as jovial as he sounded the next four years were going to be great.

Thankfully, he was.  One of Juniata’s strongest and most beneficial programs is its academic advising.  We had advisers at my high school and they did a good job helping students pick classes and encouraging us to apply to college, but Juniata’s adviser’s work much harder.  Dr. Dries has not only advised me on the classes I should take for my POE but he has given me advice on whether I should attend Graduate or Medical school and where I might start looking for a good Graduate program.  This past year I even started working in his lab which does research on neurodegenerative disorders, the area of neuroscience I want to research.  He even invited me over for Thanksgiving when I had nowhere else to go.  Over the three years I have known Dr. Dries he has remained supportive and enthusiastic about my coursework and my success.

Figure 1: Members of Dr. Dries' Lab at our lab bonding event last semester.  We learned that Dr. Dries is weirdly good at Trivial Pursuit.  Do you know the capital of Australia?

Figure 1: Members of Dr. Dries’ at our lab bonding event last semester. We learned that Dr. Dries is weirdly good at Trivial Pursuit. Do you know the capital of Australia? 

I wrote about Ellen Campbell several weeks ago and just like her, Dr. Dries is not an isolated case at Juniata.  Professors from all departments are highly involved in their student’s lives, inviting them over for club dinners, having them house sit and even baby sit.  Juniata’s students are as close with their professors as they are with one another and I think that is one of the most unique things Juniata offers.  The student to staff ratio of thirteen to one is not just a statistic it represents one of Juniata’s defining characteristics, our community.

Ellen Cambell: Making Juniata a World of Possibilities

As I begin the second semester of my Junior year, I have started to look back on all of the people that have helped me and supported me. You might say it’s a little too early for this level of nostalgia, but in a year from now I will be anxiously awaiting news about my graduate school applications as well as frantically trying to figure out where my life is going over the next five to six years. Thankfully, Juniata is filled with kind and supportive people who care about the student’s lives, and who do their utmost to make sure they get where they want to go in life.

One of these people is Ellen Campbell. I first met Ellen when I was applying to be an RA my freshmen year. At that time, she was the Resident Director for our off-campus housing. She has a quick wit and an enthusiastic personality and she made the stressful process of applying to be an RA a little less so. Ellen is now the Assistant Dean of Students and is doing all she can to make Juniata an amazing place for all who go here. She is incredibly approachable and will even yell across the quad if she sees you. She has the unique capability to take a funny conversation or story and seamlessly transition it into a serious conversation. One of the things that I believe sets Juniata apart is the Faculty’s relationship with the students. Given that our student to professor ratio is 13:1, our professors and administrators time is free to interact more with the students and it allows them to invest more in our lives.

Figure 1: Is it as Funny lookin' to you as it was to Ellen?

Figure 1: Is it as Funny lookin’ to you as it was to Ellen?

One of the ways they do this is by participating in student events. Last semester, Ellen and I had the unique opportunity to be a part of one of Juniata’s more comedic traditions, Mr. Juniata. One of the contestants performed his rendition of the Mean Girls talent show routine. As soon as the quartet walked out on stage Ellen started to laugh. Ellen does not have a normal laugh. Ellen’s laugh engulfs everything around it and can be heard above even the rowdiest of crowds. She grabbed my arm and the arm of the kid on the other side of her and started shaking us in her excitement and merriment. I don’t think I have ever laughed harder in my life than I did in that moment. If I had gone to another school, I don’t think I would ever have been able to experience something like that with a professor and certainly not an administrator.

From the brief time I have known Ellen she has made me feel welcomed and supported and, even if she didn’t realize it, she has taught me that education of any kind is an investment and you get out of it what you put in. If you ever get the chance to come to campus I sincerely hope you get to meet Ellen and barring that, I hope that you get to hear her infectious laugh as it echoes across campus.

An In’tents Election

As I write this, people all over the country are flocking to polling stations to cast their votes in one of the most divisive elections of our time. For months we have been bombarded by almost non-stop news coverage of what the candidates have said or done. New discoveries about shady pasts and predictions about even shadier futures have had us on the edge of our seats. But as with any mind numbingly repetitive act, this election cycle has ceased to surprise us… well at least me. The things that once appalled us about our candidates don’t really affect us anymore. When a heavy hitting revelation happens each week, the potency that they might have once held rapidly degrades.

“Oh more emails were found? He did that too? I mean how many of us actually know where Aleppo is?”

Figure 1: First time voting!

Figure 1: First time voting!

 

I would hardly describe myself has a political person, but the candidates up for election, and the issues they stand for, have gotten me fired up on more than one occasion over the past few months. Logic would dictate that the closer we get to election day, the more heated the arguments would get as people would try to sway their friends to their side of things. Yet I have noticed quite the opposite has happened. Sure I still here the odd conversation about the election on campus and I pick up the odd bit of election news from The Late Show with Steven Colbert, but the fiery rhetoric that has been such a Hallmark of this election has disappeared.

Figure 2: You can't run through a campground...

Figure 2: You can’t run through a campground…

Now again, I am not a political person and this is my first time voting, so I don’t know if this is how an election cycle usually progresses. Regardless, I think that we are all tired of the whole year. The election cycle was like watching a really bad reality show. Like the ones you see on TLC. People watch, not because they are particularly interested, but because they are captivated by the spectacle. By the time this blog is posted we will know who our next president will be and, hopefully, the drama will be over.

Here at Juniata there will probably be discussions that last a few days. We will want to know what our country will look like with our new president. Maybe a few of us will do some late night Google searches on the best way to sneak into Canada. But just as the election cycle rhetoric dissipated, so will the nervous chatter. We will start to focus our at’tent’ion to our annual tradition of tenting, where students camp out and compete for tickets to the Madrigal dinner. Students will write wraps, and choreograph dances and stock up on cold medicine in preparation for the week after tenting.

I guess the point I am trying to make is that while the presidential election is important and will determine a lot about the next four years, the outcome shouldn’t change how we live our lives. As someone somewhere once said, “This too shall pass.” Despite how you feel about the impending election results, don’t let them ruin your day, or your week or your next four years. There is a lot more to life than a presidential election. So if you’re feeling a little nervous, pack up a tent and get away from it all for a while. Oh, and don’t forget the cold medicine, it’s a little chilly outside.

Running toward your problems…

Fall break has once again come and gone. This is a much needed break that comes in the middle of our semester here at Juniata. It is a time of rest and relaxation… or it is supposed to be. You see, from the time we get here in August, to the time fall break begins, we as students have a lot of work. And work needs to be completed in a timely manner and, if possible, done well in advance of when it is due. If you don’t meet the deadline for an essay, or if you procrastinate believing that you will have more time later, your grades, sleep and social life will all suffer. Fall break is a moment, however brief, for us to take a breath and reflect upon the first seven weeks of the semester at what we have, and haven’t, accomplished, and look ahead to the things that we have yet to complete.

Figure 1:The SteelStacks of Behtlehem.  At the height of WWII, these forges employed 32,000 people.  They now stand cold and decrepit, relics of a bygone era.

Figure 1:The SteelStacks of Bethlehem. At the height of WWII, these forges employed 32,000 people. They now stand cold and decrepit, relics of a bygone era.

My fall break consisted of homework, studying for my biochemistry tests this coming week, sleeping and running. The first three I worked on for the first three days of break and they were for my sanity, so that in the coming weeks I might have slightly less work to do and could get slightly more sleep. The last took up about an hour and forty-seven minutes of my Sunday morning and definitely detracted a bit from my sanity. In August I decided to register for the Runners World Half Marathon held annually in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, a mere three-hour drive from Juniata. You see I believed at the time of my registration that I would be able to fit in daily runs and workouts between classes, studying and work. But I sadly misjudged the amount of time I would actually have to devote to training, and a calf injury just made it that much harder to run.

Figure 2: The free t-shirt, finisher's medal and the all-important banana.

Figure 2: The free t-shirt, finisher’s medal and the all-important banana.

While I was able to finish the race (earning a fancy finisher’s medal), it was not easy to do so. I felt every mile I had not run in the past few months every time my foot pounded against the concrete, a pain that continues even now as I write this. Walking is not an easy venture at the moment. I suffer because of my hubris, believing myself to be a better athlete than I am, and because of my procrastination. I kept putting off exercise each day believing that I would have more time to do it once my calf healed or as soon as I got through a stressful week. When you keep telling yourself things like that you soon realize that the time you thought you had has passed. Then you find yourself standing on the start line of a half-marathon in awe at the fact that there are so many running nerds around you, and in horror thinking about how many miles you have to run.

The point that I am trying to make is this: Balance in a college life is key. One of my friends recently related some advice that he was given before coming to college and that was to not let classes get in the way of your college education. Now, classes are important, make sure you get your work done before you go and play. But that statement is really saying don’t let your life become controlled by academics. Be able to step away and go have fun and explore. That is one of the nice things about Juniata. Yes, you need to work hard and be studious, but the school encourages the students to take part in other activities. We have over a hundred clubs on campus, and if joining one or several of them doesn’t get you out of your room there’s always something to do on campus.

So take charge and be studious so that you can excel in your classes, but also take the time to step back and breath and hey, maybe even run a half-marathon. The pain is totally worth the free banana at the end.

Juniata Goes West

There is a waterfall that is nestled between some of the lesser mountains that adorn the rugged skyline to the west of Colorado Springs.  Seven Falls has been a longtime fixture in Colorado Springs’ attractions, but it has only recently (within the last few years) been bought by the Broadmoor, a swanky hotel, golf course and resort.  They have made some amazing additions to the park and have done some stellar renovations.  If you ever visit, hit up The 1858.  It’s a little pricey but well worth it.

Me posing atop inspiration point, trying not to think of the hundreds of feed of empty air behind me.

Me posing atop inspiration point, trying not to think of the hundreds of feed of empty air behind me.

I found myself there twice this summer; once at the beginning, once at the end.  The first time I found myself there was right before my best friend’s sister, a girl who I myself have come to see as a sister, graduated from our high school.  The beginning of my summer marked the ending of an era for her.  She was about to head off on a new adventure on the opposite side of the country.  This was a momentous occasion for her, and there I was, back in Colorado, trying to combat altitude.

Seven Falls is an interesting place.  Honestly, it is mostly just a tourist trap, offering the much sought after Colorado branded merchandise at extravagant prices.  But once you climb the two hundred and eighty something steps to the trails above the falls, you get a new appreciation for life… and oxygen.  The trails are shaded by tall spruce and sentinel pines and the few aspens that might be left over from a bygone flood.  It is peaceful and calming; the stream that feeds the falls, can be heard trickling through the rocks and roots.

On my return trip to Colorado Springs at the end of the summer, my friend and I made our pilgrimage to the Falls.  As we made our way to Inspiration Point, a cliff overlook that stands high above the falls and looks out over Colorado Springs, we passed a man and his son.  The man stopped and pointed at my windbreaker (which bears a Juniata logo) and said “Juniata College?  Is that the one in Pennsylvania?”  I was so stunned that someone recognized the school that I was momentarily speechless.  Then I enthusiastically responded that yes, it was, and we had a very exciting conversation about how his wife attended Juniata and how important her experience here was for her.

I was in awe for the rest of the day.  It really wasn’t that big of a deal; you meet people who you have something distantly in common with every day.  But it was the fact that he knew Juniata and not just in the “the school south of Penn State” kind of way.  So many people I meet give me blank half-apologetic stares when I tell them where I go to college, but there, finally, just below Inspiration Point, I met someone whose life had been changed for the better because of Juniata.

My friend and I continued our climb to Inspiration Point and when we reached the top, I can in fact say that I was inspired.  I sat there, staring down at the now miniscule city and how it, and so many things that I have come to associate with it, have gotten me to where I am today.  I looked up from the city and admired the ageless rocks that surrounded me.  I smiled, and we hiked back down to lunch, and the best nachos I have ever had.

Thoughts on the Juniata Concert Choir

jeff1

Figure 1: I took the picture a bit late but the Choir received a standing ovation after their last song “Set me as a Seal.” Choir Alumni joined the current members for this last song.

This weekend was the Juniata College Concert Choir’s Spring performance. At this show they presented all the work they have been practicing and perfecting since January, all of which they performed on their recent domestic tour through Pennsylvania, New York, and Connecticut. It featured traditional religious songs and several songs of Czech origin, two of which were written and composed by Antonin Dvorak. It was a moving auditory and even visual performance, and one that I will not soon forget.

I first heard the Concert Choir fifteen or so years ago when I was in kindergarten. The Shuler Theater in Raton, New Mexico, is run by a man named Bill Fegan, a Juniata Alumnus and a master at getting hard to get performances to come to a small middle-of-nowhere town. Bill managed to get the choir to swing through Raton on their Southwest domestic tour and although I don’t remember most of the performance there is one that stands out in my memory.

The choir had come down from the stage and had spread themselves out in front of and around either side of the audience. I don’t remember the song or even the tune, I just remember that even at such a young age I was in some sort of awe. I relived this awe this weekend as the choir neatly removed themselves from the stage and positioned themselves around the audience. The first song they sang in this formation was Remember Me. The Baritone’s deep voices perfectly balanced with the soprano’s high tones, and the Tenors and Altos blended it all together to make a hauntingly beautiful masterpiece. I don’t remember this song so much for the tune or even the words, but for the emotional response it brought. Throughout the entire piece I fought with being happy as it seemed that two souls were going their separate ways and moving on. But as the song went on, I realized that it was really someone saying goodbye for good, and the final line of “Remember me and be sad” hit home.

I have listened to a fair number of choirs during my life, but none so powerful as the Juniata Concert Choir. While many of them are wonderful singers, none except for their director Russell Shelley are what you would call professionals. Yet this group of young individuals comes together and manages to not only sing well but to also convey a breathtaking amount of emotion that caused the lady sitting behind me to exclaim “Oh, wow” after every song.

Follow

Get every new post on this blog delivered to your Inbox.

Join other followers: